How to help reduce sick days at work

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Health Assured team

10 November 2021

Dealing with sick staff is difficult to juggle whilst trying to run a business.

Employees lose an average of 4.4 days because of sickness and injuries. This can add up to 140 million lost workdays – costing the UK economy £9 billion per year.

Reducing sickness at work can be done through good management and reporting procedures. Which in turn, can strengthen your legal duty of care for your staff’s health, safety, and wellbeing.

Learn how to deal with employee sickness; and what entitlements you must provide to avoid unfair treatment claims.

How many sick days are you allowed at work?

There is no set number of days an employee is allowed to be off sick. However, there are legal rules for how much Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) they get whilst on leave.

SSP is £96.35 per week – which you need to pay for. It goes up to 28 weeks, but you might choose to offer more. (Particularly if it’s within your company policy or in employment contracts).

To qualify for SSP, employees need to meet the following requirements. They need to:

  • Be off sick for 4 or more consecutive days (including Sundays and holidays).
  • Notify HR or managers about their absence. (This should be within 7 days, or within your own company rules).
  • Provide medical evidence, like a self-certificate or a doctor’s note.
  • Earn at least £120 (before tax) per week.

How to reduce sickness at work?

When you add up missing work hours, sickness absence can impact your company’s profitability. So, it’s within your own interest to prevent the causes of absenteeism.

Here are some methods to help reduce sickness in the workplace.

Keep a healthy workplace environment

There are many ways your workplace can class as an unhealthy work environment. Employees might:

  • Have no access to fresh or clean air.
  • Work in messy or dirty spaces.
  • Spend too much time indoors.
  • Stay stationary for long periods of time.

Ideas on how to prevent sickness at work can come from the staff themselves. Deal with any issues they raise. That way, you can manage problems quickly and keep your staff healthy.

Run risk assessments and audit checks

Conduct regular health and safety risk assessments and audits to analyse your workplace environment. Some hazards and accidents can cause instant but long-term injuries.

Ask trained workers or professional auditors to compile H&S reports. This allows you to comply with your health and safety regulations.

The reports can also help identify damaged equipment, faulty infrastructure, and even incorrect training.

Managing these risks means you can fulfil your legal duty of care, whilst avoiding claims of bad workplace practices.

Get your staff up and moving

80% of UK workers in sedentary jobs spend between 4 to 8 straight hours sitting at their desks.

In most cases, employees don’t have necessary ergonomic equipment to safely work for long hours, like rests and supports.

Remember, it’s your legal obligation to care for your staff’s health. So, encourage then to become more active. Exercising is a great contributor for reducing stress, combating health conditions, and improving cognitive elements.

Looking after immune systems can help lower the chance of falling ill and spreading viruses. And something as simple as regular exercise can reduce sickness and absence rates.

Encourage your staff to become more active by:

  • Offering discounted gym memberships.
  • Starting company sports teams.
  • Introducing cycle-to-work schemes.
  • Hosting exercise and wellbeing classes.

You could even introduce a few desk exercises. This can help anxious workers start exercising at their own pace and will.

Try clean eating and healthy diets

There are so many benefits to clean eating – and it’s not just about cutting out everything with a gram of fat, sugar, or salt.

Having a balanced diet significantly links to healthier immune systems. And it’s also linked to a reduction of stress and anxiety levels.

Show your staff how to deal with sickness at work through clean eating. If your business offers internal catering, from small snack carts to company canteens, offer healthier options.

Swap out fatty, salty, carb-filled snacks for nutritious food. Maybe even introduce fruit bowls in shared kitchens and spaces.

A healthier workforce means fewer sick workers and less business disruptions.

Utilise technology to reduce sickness

Provide support and care to your staff through technological means, like employee assistance programs and wellbeing systems.

Tracking health and wellbeing rates can help employees avoid bad habits and manage sickness triggers.

Fitness watches and apps are useful visual aids to prompt healthier routines too. From tracking heartrates, everyday steps, and exercise sessions – they can provide rapid and accurate reports for successful days – and not so good ones.

Understand the causes

You may have sickness reports and policies in place, but it doesn’t mean they will always be observed. Employees need to know how to report sickness at work, and the importance of following the rules.

Encourage them to report their conditions; you can quickly identify patterns and correlations, especially for multiple absences.

For example, if you have foresight on a local virus, you can relay this to your staff and urge them to take care.

Or, you could have a specific type of work task, which might inadvertently cause muscle pain. By tracking absences with similar injuries, you can improve and provide safer work training and practices.

Through reporting, everyone will understand how to deal with being sick at work. And you’ll be able to collect sufficient absence data, track sickness patterns, and manage your staff’s welfare.

How to deal with an employee who is always sick

Employees can present an array of reasons for being off sick – some more genuine than others.

You might have employees with serious health conditions. They might need more time to recover or have a high number of medical appointments to attend.

And on the other hand, you might face repeat offenders whose absence excuses are leaving you with suspicions.

In the end, absences like these can add up to costly effects to your business. Here’s how to deal with sick employees on long-term leave:

Manage your work absence policy

An absence policy which deals with long-term sickness can showcase your business rules.

Present them through employee handbooks and contracts. And outline the rules for long-term leave, and what support and regulations everyone must follow.

Analyse the reasons for absences

Before you action formal meetings and disciplinary measures, try to understand the reason for their long-term absence.

You might discover causes for serious medical conditions come from continuous malpractice from within your business.

Once you’ve identified them, implement changes to your health and safety management.

Provide managers with empathy training

Sometimes, a worker might be going through an illness which can’t be fixed by long-term leave or medicinal purposes.

For illnesses like these, provide your managers with empathy and emotional intelligence training. This can be especially beneficial for those going through mental health issues or bereavement.

Through training, your management can affectively support them – on a professional and personal scale.

Make reasonable workplace adjustments

Long-term sickness can arguably turn one’s life upside down. But once the worst of it has settled, returning to work can become another huge hurdle.

When going through changes like this, you can apply reasonable adjustments to help them return to work at a healthy rate.

Flexible hours, ergonomic equipment, and workplace improvements can help motivate and satisfy employees.

Have open discussions with sick employees

Having conversations with long-term sick employees is a key component for providing support.

You’ll come to understand their reasons for long-term leave. Plus, you’ll help minimise any worries and stresses they have for being absent for so long. Like whether they might face dismissal or demotion.

Encourage them to report any personal issues which could affect their profession life. With a shared understanding, you can work on their road to recovery together.

Get help with reducing sickness at work with Health Assured

If you’re still unsure about how to deal with employees on sick leave, or if you have any other concerns about reducing sickness at work, Health Assured can help.

Our team of legal advisors and experts are well equipped to support employees with questions and advice. Our helpline open 24/7 hours a day, 365 days a year. So, you can get in touch whenever you need us.

For guidance on sick leave, contact us today. Or arrange a call back from a workplace wellbeing expert today on 0844 891 0353.

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